Bone China by Laura Purcell
Publisher: Raven Books
Publication date: 19 September 2019
Genre: Gothic/historical fiction
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.
I absolutely loved Purcell’s first Gothic novel, The Silent Companions, but was disappointed in the second, The Corset. Naturally, I was very curious about Bone China, her latest book, to see if it would recapture everything I loved about The Silent Companions. It absolutely did — Bone China is a fantastic addition to her growing repertoire of Gothic fiction.
Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.
Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.
I think one of the reasons I ended up loving this book so much is that it is a return to Purcell’s amazing spooky and atmospheric style. She’s so good at blurring the lines between what is real and what is supernatural — her characters do not know if they’re going mad or if what they’re experiencing is frighteningly real. I love how she weaves this theme in with her plots to create strange, twisty tales. While I felt like none of this was present in The Corset, sacrificed in favour of endless passages of abuse, Bone China gets back to what I love about her books. Morvoren House is the perfect, spooky setting, especially when coupled with the remote Cornish coast in winter. Bone China is the perfect atmospheric novel that is perfect for a chilly autumn night.
This book departs from her usual style in that we get multiple points of view. Hester Why’s first person perspective starts the book, then we shift to forty years prior and get Miss Pinecroft and her father’s points of view. It was a little jarring to suddenly switch to a new perspective and style about 25-20% into the book — which felt a little far to be suddenly changing perspectives — however it made sense with the revelations of the story and the transitions between the viewpoints became smoother. I ended up enjoying the shifting perspectives and they worked great with the story that unfolded.
Hester is definitely a ‘classic’ Purcell character, and she’s easily the most interesting in the book. She’s a woman running from a shady past, which is slowly revealed through flashbacks, and abuses alcohol and drugs as a result. Her drink and drug-induced haze gets thicker and thicker throughout the book, and it’s hard to tell what is real and what she is imagining. I also enjoyed Ms. Pinecroft’s character — her backstory is tragic and unfolds in an incredibly interesting way, both in the past and present.
Bone China is a fine addition to Purcell’s catalogue of Gothic fiction. It is a creepy and unsettling tale is filled with twists and turns that will keep you on your toes until the very end. I highly recommend this book if you’re enjoy her other Gothic fiction or if you’re looking for the perfect fall read.
Want to pick up a copy of Bone China for yourself? You can pre-order it at the following sites (affiliate links):